vancouver island day three: sidney and saanich peninsula

The B&B had self-serve coffee starting earlier than breakfast, but for guests whose internal clocks are on eastern time, it was a long and painful wait! I watched the clock until I could get that first cup.

We had our first breakfast together -- another amazing breakfast -- and talked about our plans. We decided to skip the most famous attraction in the Victoria area, Butchart Gardens. (Excuse me, that's The Butchart Gardens.) It's very expensive, and Allan and I don't really care about gardens. Even gardens people have told us would knock us out, didn't do anything for me. Especially as it will cost more than $60 for two, and when the main purpose of the trip was to look at potential places to live.

M&M are very accomplished gardeners -- actually Master Gardeners, which I didn't know was a thing -- and they definitely wanted to go, but they would have one day after we left, before they leave for Olympic National Park. So that worked out very nicely.

We drove around Sidney, and mostly saw huge homes with views of the harbor. On the cab ride from the airport, we saw nice neighbourhoods of single-family homes and some townhouses, but we never found an area of Sidney proper where we might live.

We drove into Saanich, which was much closer than I thought. In this area, we saw lots of buildings with "no vacancy" signs -- which means there are rentals. The area was very suburban, but looked much more appealing than where we live now -- more green, less concrete, fewer strip malls.

We visited the other big area attraction (although nowhere near as famous as those gardens), a butterfly garden. It was actually a tropical ecosystem with parrots, iguanas, flamingos, and tortoises. It was beautiful and fun; Allan took a ton of pictures.

After leaving the butterfly garden, we stumbled on a sweet little cafe-bakery where we had lunch: Rustik Bistro. This was the kind of place that immediately endears a town to me forever. It's someone's independent shop, not a chain store. It's spacious inside, with mismatched chairs, reading material, and a funky infographic on the wall. The bakery sells bread and pastries baked right behind the counter. They have an interesting breakfast and lunch menu, and it's not overly expensive.

It's the absence of these kinds of places that make Mississauga depressing. That might sound strange; you don't choose a place to live because of a cafe. But it's not the bakery itself: it's being in a place that supports this kind of shop, and many more like it. On the west coast, I've always found more of this. There are still chains -- you can find Tims and Starbucks -- but those are just options. They don't dominate the landscape.

At Rustik Bistro, I had a beautiful, perfect salad for lunch. You have no idea how happy a perfect salad with lots of stuff in it makes me. We were sharing desserts, and Allan was disappointed that the old-fashioned, plain donuts he had seen behind the counter were gone. Then the host came out with a plate of them, fresh from the fryer, and put them on our table as a treat. Amazing.

Driving around after lunch, we happened on the Nellie McClung branch of the Greater Victoria Public Library -- a lovely, small branch full of natural light. There are rental buildings nearby, what appears to be an abundance of public transit, and it's not very far from downtown Victoria... where perhaps Allan could work. (For non-Canadians reading, Nellie McClung is Canada's Susan B. Anthony. I never believe in signs and omens... until I do.)

So this area was suburban, but it gave me a much better feel than the ugly sprawl of the GTA.

For the last few days, I had been waiting to hear from the Ontario NDP if I had been approved to seek the nomination. Back in our rooms, relaxing, I finally heard that I was cleared: it's a go. Exciting!

Later on we thought we'd spend for time on the main drag in Sidney, but everything was closed. It was only 6:00! OK, things close early here. Instead we walked on that waterfront trail. It reminded us of Port Credit, where we first lived after moving to Canada. We stopped for drinks, which turned into a tapas dinner.

My notes say: "We are having a great time with M&M. My brother has become obsessed with a free half-pound of smoked salmon that someone is supposed to give us for being guests at the hotel."

Then -- wait for it -- we stayed up late talking and drinking wine.

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